A New Chapter in Israeli Politics
Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina Party, and Yesh Atid party chief Yair Lapid have managed to do the unbelievable and put together a new governing coalition that ousts Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 years.
How were they able to do this? In the past few months, Bennett appeared to zig-zag no less than three times. He said he would set up a coalition government with the “bloc for change” made up of parties determined to see Benjamin Netanyahu banished to the opposition. Then, during May’s Gaza conflict, he abandoned those efforts, telling confidantes that a government leaning on Ra’am was off the table due to clashes in Israel between Jews and Arabs — only to then resume negotiations as the ceasefire took hold, leading to the emergence of the eight-party coalition.
But there is likely more to this story than meets the eye. When Bennett announced that he was giving up on the change coalition during the Gaza hostilities, he put on a show worthy of an Oscar for Best Actor. He and Lapid continued negotiations throughout the entire time, enjoying the quiet that was generated by the impression that their efforts to set up a coalition had ended.
Bennett has much invested in this coalition. If the coalition fails and Israel goes to a fifth election process, Yamina will most likely be erased from the political map. Bennett’s choices were simple: Safeguard his right-wing ideology and remain outside of the political system, or become prime minister.
Bennett’s gamble is also simple: If he is perceived as a good prime minister, his supporters will forget his own violations of his election pledges.
During the campaign, Bennett sat in a television studio and announced categorically that he would not enter into a coalition with Lapid. And yet, here we are, with a power-sharing Lapid-Bennett coalition.
Netanyahu’s removal from power is a “big bang” moment in Israeli politics, which has shaken up the entire system and created a new dynamic.
The fact of the matter is that the alternative of a fifth election process is untenable for the State of Israel. The parties of the new coalition understood that they have to find a way to get along. Their ability to reach dramatic compromises is an achievement on their part, in light of their vastly contrasting ideologies. And so, Israel reaches the unprecedented situation in which the head of a party with less than 10 Knesset seats becomes prime minister.
The change coalition has reached agreements on many core issues. Tens of billions of shekels in public funds will go to the Arab sector, in line with the demands of Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas. And legislation saying that a prime minister who has been in power for eight years will need a four-year cooling off period is being prepared, in what appears to be personal legislation designed to deny Netanyahu access to a new run for office any time soon. Other changes, such as proposed alterations to the Norwegian law, remain to be seen. But one thing is for sure — Israel finally has a new government, and a new prime minister.
Danielle Roth-Avneri is a publishing Expert at The MirYam Institute. Danielle is a journalist and reporter on political matters, as well as an editor for the Israel Hayom/Israel Today newspaper, the most widely circulated publication in Israel.
The MirYam Institute is the leading international forum for Israel focused discussion, dialogue, and debate, focused on campus presentations, engagement with international legislators, and gold-standard trips to the State of Israel. Follow their work at www.MirYamInstitute.org.